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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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SCRAPS: Bring in pets when wind chill hits, and give extra care to outdoor animals

SCRAPS is urging pet owners to bring their animals inside with temperatures dropping and wind chill rising. Here, a man walks his dog near Terre Haute, Indiana last month. (Jim Avelis / AP)
SCRAPS is urging pet owners to bring their animals inside with temperatures dropping and wind chill rising. Here, a man walks his dog near Terre Haute, Indiana last month. (Jim Avelis / AP)

As the temperature is expected to fall below zero and the wind picks up, the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service is reminding pet owners to take extra care of cats and dogs.

“No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life,” said Janet Dixon, SCRAPS special program manager. “The wind can lower the temperature 10, even 20 degrees, causing serious problems for your pet.”

A wind chill advisory was in effect for the Inland Northwest through 10 a.m. Wednesday.

North winds were expected at 10 mph or lower in Spokane, but North Idaho is likely to see stronger winds of 10 to 14 mph.

Lows are expected to be in single digits above or below zero through Friday night in Spokane.

Many new urban farmers in the Spokane-area worry about their backyard chickens.

Pat Munts, small farms and acreage coordinator at WSU’s Extension office in Spokane, said the biggest problem in chicken coops is usually to keep water thawed.

“You can buy heated chicken water containers at the feed store and it may be worth it,” Munts said.

She added that it’s important to keep the coop dry and to make absolutely sure the chickens can get out of the wind.

“They will roost together and they are pretty good at keeping each other warm,” Munts said. A heating lamp may be a good addition if there are just one or two birds in a coop, and adding more straw to nesting boxes is a good idea, too, Munts said.

“But overall they are tough little birds, as long as they can get out of the wind,” Munts said.

Dixon said people sometimes forget that pastured horses need extra care in the winter.

“You have got to make sure they have water and that they can get out of the wind,” Dixon said.

Outdoor horses probably need more hay because they use more energy staying warm in the winter, Dixon said.

The opposite is true of inside animals – like pet dogs and cats – who often sleep more and exercise less in the winter. Dixon said to never leave indoor pets outside when it’s this cold.

“People think dogs and cats have fur and that’s enough, but it’s not enough for domesticated animals,” Dixon said. “They are used to living in your house.”

Outdoor dogs should have a dry, warm place to seek shelter out of the wind, and never be fed frozen food or water.

“Because it takes more energy to stay warm during winter, outdoor animals eat more,” Dixon said.

And don’t be too quick to make fun of those little dog sweaters and jackets.

Dixon said a short haired dog – especially one that is low to the ground – may really benefit from some type of garment when it’s outside.

“And watch their feet, they can get dried and cracked from the chemicals,” Dixon said. She added that snow melt, salt and deicer is rough on dog and cat paws, and antifreeze for the car is poisonous.

Feral cats often seek shelter under a warm car hood.

“Smack the car hood to scare them out, every time you get into your car,” Dixon said. “Every year we get a few cats with no hair on their back, because they got caught in an engine.”

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